‘The 55-year-old New Yorker, Kenneth Lonergan, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the unique problems of retelling Howards End.
In the past two decades, Kenneth Lonergan’s original screenplays, for films like Manchester by the Sea, Margaret and You Can Count on Me, have earned him critical acclaim and awards attention. (The first landed Lonergan his original screenplay Oscar in 2017.) But with Howards End, the miniseries that debuted stateside on Starz in April, the writer, director, and playwright exercised a different kind of storytelling muscle: literary adaptation.
E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel had been adapted before — by James Ivory in 1992 (the film won three Oscars, and Ivory was nominated). But Lonergan saw an opportunity to dig into the novel in greater detail through a four-part miniseries (a co-production with BBC One, it premiered in the U.K. in November. Here are some excerpts from the interview of –
On the challenges of adapting Howards End – “There’s a certain schematic quality to the book, where each family very blatantly represents a certain strata of Edwardian society, so I tried to mess that up a little bit and humanize it. I thought the fact that there’s a lot of interior narrative from Margaret’s point of view was going to be quite challenging to dramatize, but it turns out that it translates into action quite well because there are many good scenes with dialogue, and she speaks to other people very much in the same way that she thinks.”
On the structing of the series – “We discussed whether it was four or six [episodes] a lot. I was lobbying for six, but it ended up being four, so I ended up cramming what I had planned out into four episodes, but I think it works well. It reminded me of a play because you want to end the first act in a two-act play in a way that makes you want to see the second act. In a two-act film, you obviously want to keep people interested from scene to scene, but you don’t have that dramatic, “OK, it’s over until the next week [element]” — so that was familiar for me and also kind of fun to try to do. And each episode had to be 50 minutes exactly, so my beginnings and ends had to be shifted around so that the episodes could be the same length, but that wasn’t a big hardship, either.”
Read the full interview at Hollywood Reporter